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The European directive WEEE

The European directive 2002/196/EC related to the WEEE (Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment) published in January 2003 signaled a first step in the political management of used computer equipment. This directive defines the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) concerning the collection of WEEE, the systematic treatment of hazardous parts, the recovery of all the WEEE collected, with priority given to reuse and recycling, and also to eco-design. 

In countries with EPR laws like the EU, some US states and Japan, electronics manufacturers are financially responsible for dealing with the waste from their products, meeting collection and recycling targets and other obligations. However, EPR only applies to domestically generated wastes.

Some developing countries are also starting to establish their own policies in order to ensure the quality of inbound shipments of used e-equipment. For instance, in August 2007, China adopted a bill on the “Circular Economy” based on a system of fines and bonuses. An entrepreneur in the business of repairing used computer equipment should be sure that the laws of his country, and of any country from which the used computer equipment has been imported, have been followed

Future Implementation

Under its Strategic Plan adopted in 2002, Parties to the Basel Convention have identified used and end-of-use electronic equipment as a “priority waste stream”. This higher profile has promoted a number of WEEE focused initiatives under the Convention, such as the Mobile Phone Partnership Initiative (MPPI), a private-public partnership addressing the environmentally sound management of used and end-of-use mobile phones. At the G8 level, Japan’s proposed “3Rs Initiative”, which explores options for recycling of used equipment and materials, particularly in Asia, is gaining in importance in this connection.

At the Eighth Conference of the Parties (COP), held in late November 2006 in Nairobi, the Parties adopted the Ministerial Declaration on e-waste (known as the “Nairobi Declaration on the Environmentally Sound Management of Electrical and Electronic Waste”) and a formal COP Decision on e-waste,establishing the priority e-waste management issues for governments and other stakeholders, calling for the development of a work plan on e-waste for the next biennium. Future partnerships may include a Partnership for Action on Computing Equipment (PACE), which could address the development of recycling guidelines and pilot projects for shipments to pre certified recycling facilities.

In addition, the Parties are considering a series of options raised under the aegis of the MPPI to address issues and ambiguities associated with the classification and management of mobile phones for the purpose of facilitating increased collection and the environmentally sound management of mobile phones.